oozing

Vaping coats the mouth in a "slime-cloak" — study

E-cigarettes can totally mess with the microbes in your mouth.

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Vaping is touted as a safer alternative to smoking. But e-cigarettes are not devoid of health effects.

A study published in May found e-cigarette use led to the development of a slimy film in the mouths of vapers, formed by the microbes freaking out in response to the vapors.

And it doesn’t take long for it to develop. “Most importantly, these changes happen within 3 to 12 months of vaping,” Purnima Kumar, senior author of the paper and a professor at Ohio State’s College of Dentistry, told Inverse. “This is the fastest change [to the oral microbiome] to a human behavior that we have observed so far, [including] diet, antibiotic use, smoking, [and] hookah."

INVERSE IS COUNTING DOWN THE 20 MOST WTF SCIENCE STORIES OF 2020. THIS IS NUMBER 7. SEE THE FULL LIST HERE.

In the study, the researchers inspected the mouths of otherwise-healthy e-cigarette users, and when compared with the mouths of cigarette smokers and non-smokers, the vapers’ mouths were harboring what the researchers call a “slime-cloak” — basically the extremes of oral bacteria's stress response when exposed to vapor.

"Vaping can potentially induce a whole host of different diseases."

The stress from vaping creates a “pathogen-rich” environment, something similar to that seen in people who have periodontitis – a form of severe gum disease.

At this point, we don’t totally know what the consequences of this inflammation might be for vapers. Especially since the slime cloak, which sets these changes in motion, isn’t something scientists are used to seeing in these specific bacteria communities in the mouth.Drazen_/E+/Getty Images

What causes this slime cloak to form? Rather than the nicotine or flavoring, it’s the ingredients in a vape that lends it that “throat-hit” feeling, to make it reminiscent of a cigarette. The two agents responsible for this effect — and responsible for the slime film — are called propylene glycol and glycerol.

This disruption in the oral microbiome could provoke a “huge response from the immune system,” Kumar told Inverse, which may lead to adverse consequences for health over the long-term.

The study only furthers the notion that more research into the health effects of e-cigarettes is badly warranted. “Vaping can potentially induce a whole host of different diseases than what we have been used to seeing with smoking because of the different inflammatory signals and their intensities,” Kumar said.

INVERSE IS COUNTING DOWN THE 20 MOST WTF SCIENCE STORIES OF 2020. THIS IS NUMBER 7. READ THE ORIGINAL STORY HERE.

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